LPGA's best have bigger plans in store for 2014

By Randall MellNovember 25, 2013, 4:27 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The LPGA ended a remarkable season Sunday at the CME Group Titleholders, one that has its best players highly motivated to pick up where they left off when a more robust 2014 schedule begins in nine weeks.

Rolex No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and No. 3 Stacy Lewis waged a terrific battle for supremacy of the women’s game this year. They combined to win nearly half the tour events (13/28) and all the majors. Park made a historic run at a Grand Slam after winning the year’s first three majors. Pettersen and Lewis responded with hot second halves.

The trio expects their clashes for the game’s big prizes to continue into next season. They also expect the challenges Shanshan Feng and Lexi Thompson mounted, with strong late-season finishes, to continue into 2014. There also will be more of Lydia Ko to contend with as a pro, and the comeback of Ariya Jutanugarn, a giant talent who looked poised to make a run at the world’s best before injuring her shoulder in June.

Actually, the season isn’t officially over for Park and Lewis.

Park, 25, is scheduled to play in the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan in two weeks. That’s a co-sanctioned Taiwan LPGA and Korean LPGA event. Lewis will play in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters the same week. That’s a Ladies European Tour event. Pettersen is taking the rest of the year off.

“I think it’s just going to be a continuation of this year,” Park said of the pressure she expects Lewis and Pettersen to apply trying to take her No. 1 ranking in 2014. “I think a lot of players are going to be competitive next year, but I think Suzann and Stacy are going to be very competitive.”

After Swinging Skirts, Park will take a long break back home in South Korea before embarking on a new preseason preparation plan. She will head to the Gold Coast of Australia a few weeks before the start of the 2014 LPGA season to begin training for the new year. In the past, she has flown to Los Angeles to train. She expects she will skip the LPGA season opener in the Bahamas and make her first LPGA start at the ISPS Handa Australian Women's Open in February.

Park won a tour-best six LPGA titles in 2013, including those three majors. Even with that year, Park felt Pettersen and Lewis stepping up the pressure on her in the second half. Watching Park win the U.S. Women’s Open in June sparked something in Park’s strongest rivals. Lewis won the next major, the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Pettersen won the last major of the year, the Evian Championship. All the while, Park cooled off, decompressing from all the pressure that built up in a Grand Slam quest.

Can Park top 2013?

“I thought I probably wouldn’t be able to play as well as I did last year, but I played better this year,” Park said. “There is definitely room to improve next year. I probably have a little more pressure on me next year, but I think I had a lot of pressure this year, so I think a little bit more doesn't really make a difference for me. I think as time goes by, I'm going to be a little bit more used to it and a little bit more mature.”

Lewis, 28, said she definitely wants to take a couple weeks away from her golf clubs, but she’s eager to build on what’s working with her game. She won three times in 2013, including her second major. That’s one less victory than she recorded winning the Rolex Player of the Year title last year, but she believes she’s a better player now.

“When I look back, I think this year was a better year than last year,” Lewis said. “It’s just Inbee and Suzann played unbelievable.”

Lewis recorded a staggering 19 top-10 finishes this season, up from 16 a year ago. She won the Vare Trophy with a scoring average almost a full stroke better than last year. She believes she’s a better driver today than a year ago, but she would like to become more consistent with her putter.

“I’ll definitely take a couple weeks off, but I don’t think I’ll take as much time off as I did last year, just because I’m excited where my game is at,” Lewis said. “I feel like if I can shore up a couple things, I’ll be right where I need to be.

“It’s been a great season, but I can also look back at points where I can be better. That’s what’s exciting to me. I can have a good year like this and still have things to work on, and ways to improve. So, I’m looking forward to next year and trying to do it again.”

Pettersen, 32, is intent on gaining the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career. She’s within striking distance.

“If I never thought I was going to become the world No. 1 player, I don't think I would be sitting here today,” Pettersen said last week. “I think I would have quit a long time ago. That is what keeps me going. I'm probably now more keen and eager to get up in the morning to do the stuff that I know is needed to get there. But, like I’ve said, this is not a short-term goal. I know I'm going to get there, eventually, but I just don't want to get there and disappear, I want to get there and dominate.”

Consider the gauntlet thrown down for 2014.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)